NEWS

Impenetrable consensus: Silence invites questions

OAED has always fostered inter-party consensus. In fact, when any probing questions are met with silence the organization almost seems to be fostering complicity. How many of the thousands of jobless that followed a training scheme managed to acquire vocational training? How many of the freelance professionals who received funding from OAED managed to keep their enterprise running for more that five years? Consensus is cultivated by the tripartite composition of the board of directors, which is presided over by the organization’s director, five government representatives, four GSEE delegates (one of whom is a vice president), five employer representatives (one of whom is the other vice president) and two OAED employee representatives. Apart from slight disagreements that happen on occasion, it is common for approval to be granted to schemes that are expedient to the organizations represented on the board of directors. The procedure is simple. For example, the funding of a scheme that would provide 20 hours of training in occupational health and safety to 15,000 individuals was recently approved on the basis of an EU directive. The scheme in question is financed by money from LAEK, a special fund to which both employers and workers contribute. The allocation of the trainees, and therefore the funds as well, is undertaken by the organizations represented by the OAED directors and is as follows: 3,000 individuals in the OAED training company, 3,000 individuals in the GSEE Vocational Training Center, 5,000 individuals in the Confederation of Greek Small Businesses and Traders (GSEVE), 30,000 individuals in the Vocational Training Center of the National Confederation of Commerce and 1,000 individuals in the Hellenic Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (ELINYAE). That balance has been maintained for years. It has been disturbed only before elections to ensure party power. In the short history of OAED, its balance has been upset two times. The first time was under the PASOK government when the workers’ representative and employee union president, G. Mavraidis, exposed a scandal concerning the books supplied to Apprenticeship Schools, bringing disgrace upon himself within the party. The second time occurred when the DAKE (Democratic Independent Workers Movement) representative revealed a few days before the election showdown that the unemployment figures had been underestimated. He was made OAED director and acquired the same wide-ranging powers as his predecessors. In reality, every OAED director is a kind of super-minister. There are rumors that today’s director, Giorgos Vernardakis – a distinguished party executive who is familiar with the OAED system – is particularly effective in dealing out the pieces of the pie, in particular the well-known internships, or stages. The crisis in the state employment services is not new nor has it come to the fore as a result of patronage purposes during elections in the provinces where unemployment is particularly high. The OAED crisis is a result of its failure to play the role imposed by the restructuring of the Greek economy during the 1990s and its inability to manage supply and demand in the labor market. After failed attempts to restructure in 2002 under the then labor minister Tassos Yiannitsis, OAED continued to be a state monopoly that was ineffective in the market. With the exception of the Apprenticeship Schools, which for some professions provide a good start to young people with no other training opportunities, OAED is an instrument for absorbing EU funds to create short-term posts with no prospects or continuity; they are not linked to current or midterm perspectives in the market and simply reduce the numbers of registered jobless. There are many examples as to how the content of the schemes is decided. We learned recently that OAED aims to use -3 million for the creation of 22 painting units to freshen up the facades of the organization’s buildings. With funds from the stage schemes, OAED has also renewed for a second year the contracts of its temporary staff. Since the first EU funds trickled into the country 20 years ago there has been no accurate recording and assessment of the schemes. In addition OAED’s subsidiary companies are only SA companies in name. They function rather as departments of the central administration with restricted independence.